Stock Background Characters 101: Evil Adults

In this feature, we examine the lesser beings of the slasher movie realm, which, if you’re making your own slasher film, could provide a good cast roster for you.

No killer or final girl profiles here, this is a celebration of those underlings who made the most of their fleeting flirtation with stardom. And usually died.

This month, we bite our tongues in the face of those EVIL ADULTS!

sbc-eviladults

Overview: What teenager doesn’t have an adult nemesis? Parents, teachers, that nasty old man who runs the local store… In slasherdom, such nefarious individuals are widespread, always telling the kids how to live, what not to do, keeping information vital to their survival from them because they were “just trying to help”… Sucky thing is, they were often right.

That I’m an adult myself (for, like, almost twenty years) should be noted. But I still act like I’m thirteen. 1991 thirteen, not 2015 thirteen.

Linguistic Snapshot: “Now listen to me, young lady, you may think you want to know what happened at the old farm out on Highway 66, but you don’t! And don’t go there either. Go to your room. Do your homework. Stay away from boys! It’s for your own good!”

Styling: Evil Adults come in many forms, so there’s no real all encompassing style, only that they’re well past their teen years and are blindly convinced they know best. Kinda like religious folk. But always pompous.

Hallmarks: Evil Adults vary in terms of their place and role in the slasher film, sometimes they can cross paths with The Oracle or the Holy Vessel (such as the über-strict Mother Superior from Silent Night, Deadly Night) and they don’t always die.

"I know what's best for you. You don't."

“I know what’s best for you. You don’t.”

Knowing or doing what they think is best is usually the one-dimension that the Evil Adult trades on: be it the parents of Elm Street who hide their dirty secret from their children, or the shrink trying to exploit his patient’s telekinetic abilities.

EA’s can also live in complete denial of the facts: The psyche ward doctors in Elm Street 3 (“young lady, your opinion is of no interest to me”) and the heroine’s uncle in Friday the 13th Part VIII, they don’t listen to the young, consigning them to a gruesome, stabby death, or they point blank refuse to accept the obvious – that Jason Voorhees is alive and is here.

Downfall: As such, the Evil Adults who do end up seeing the sharp end of the machete live merrily in denial until the last minute. Mr McCulloch of Friday VIII stands idly by barking orders at his students while their ranks are depleted, calling everyone who posits Jason is alive as an idiot, seeing decapitated heads, victims snatched away in front of him, and still gasps “it’s not possible!” when Jason is bearing down on him.

In the previous instalment, Tina’s selfish shrink first sacrifices her mother to aid his own escape, but then gets a buzzsaw to the torso.

Bride-Of-Chucky-John-Ritter

Likewise, Jade’s nasty uncle/guardian in Bride of Chucky is more hellbent on ruining her life, completely blind to the killer dolls in the picture. Yet another unpleasant father figure appears in Halloween 6, having moved his family into the Myers house, he overlooks his wife’s pleas to leave and ends up suffering an exploded head for his ignorance.

But it can work backwards, Mrs Slater, the cranky housemother of The House on Sorority Row keeps a dark secret that sees her killed, but instead of by the killer, it’s in a prank-gone-wrong that prompts the killer to start doing away with the girls responsible.

Or, the Evil Adult escapes death completely. This is the case for the aforementioned Mother Superior, horrible Dr Simms from Elm Street 3, and McGregor, the teen-hating campus cop in Graduation Day. While their on-screen demises might be gratifying, the fact that they don’t die underscores the unfairness of the situation, especially in the Elm Street film: The sins of the parents are visited on their children.

"You evil girls will pay for this! Mark my words!"

“You evil girls will pay for this! Mark my words!”

Genesis: Meddling, annoying people have always been present in the genre, from swaggering motorcycle cops throwing their weight around at Camp Crystal Lake, to sadistic gym teachers at Springwood High… There seems to be no one Adam or Eve figure from which they stem, their existence is all part of the teen experience, though at least they seem to be outnumbered by well-meaning adults who want to help.

Legacy: As long as the teen years are fraught with defiance, I-know-everything attitudes, beer, and sex, so there will always be Evil Adults looking to put an end to that fun. You might even say Michael, Jason, Freddy and the like are the faces of that discipline, correcting behaviour in a way the parents, teachers and cops couldn’t.

And they’re still thriving, as the mean camp counsellors who bully children in Return to Sleepaway Camp, as the distrustful mother who refuses to listen to her daughter in Fingerprints, or the asshole boss who can’t even remember if his staff are alive or dead in Final Destination 5, and the teachers who protected the nasty bullies in Tormented.

Drone on, Evil Adults, someone somewhere might be listening.

Girls school confidential

BLOODMOON

3 Stars 1989/18/101m

“The last full moon you’ll ever see.”

Director: Alec Mills / Writer: Robert Brennan / Cast: Leon Lissek, Christine Amor, Helen Thomson, Ian Williams, Craige Cronnin, Hazel Howson, Christophe Broadway, Suzie MacKenzie, Anya Molina, Samantha Rittson, Jo Munro, Michelle Doake.

Body Count: 10


Soppy Neighbours-esque romance is married to some Friday the 13th shenanigans in this fairly impressive Aussie flick that has the one major flaw of revealing the killer’s identity about a third of the way through the film.

The girls of St Elizabeth’s boarding school are being offed by a shadowy killer, who uses a length of barbed wire to garrotte them, along with the occasional boyfriend. Pretty daughter-of-someone-famous Mary is unknowingly high on the killer’s list.

The stalk n’ slash scenes are well handled, a standout being when two girls sneak into the school to steal an exam paper and run into the killer, who quickly dispatches one and chases after the other.

bloodmoon2

Bloodmoon, however, commits that cardinal sin of allowing one particularly unpleasant character to live, when hoards of comparably innocent ones have been laid to waste. Elsewhere, excess T&A negates some of the up-market style, but for an alt perspective teenie-kill film, it hits enough of the right notes. Just ignore some of the crimes against hair.

In the event of an emergency, run to the nearest carousel

HOUSE OF DEATH

2.5 Stars 1981/18/89m

“He wants their bodies …in pieces.”

A.k.a. Death Screams

Director: David Nelson / Writer: Paul C. Elliott / Cast:  Susan Kiger, Martin Tucker, William T. Hicks, Jennifer Chase, Jody Kay, John Kohler, Andria Savio, Kurt Rector, Josh Gamble, Helene Tryon, Mary Fran Lyman, Hans Manship, Monica Boston, Mike Brown, Sharon Alley.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “If his brains were TNT he couldn’t muster a good fart!”


Beware thy spoilers

This junky, but okay Friday the 13th copy starts as all good slasher films should, with a young couple’s lovemaking interrupted by murder. In this instance, they’re somehow doing it on a motorcycle (!?) when some fiend comes along and, it seems in the dim lighting that plagues this production, strangles both with the same noose, before disposing of their bodies in the river.

The plunge of their corpses into water – in flicky slo-mo – is accompanied with an overwrought score that looks like a cheap attempt at a Bond movie credit sequence. Unlike most scratchy-string slasher scores (try saying that five times), it sounds like a whole orchestra was drafted in to provide music for House of Death.

Cut to Anywheresville, USA, where the locals are enjoying the carnival at the end of summer: Highschool coach Neil is sad to see two of his favourite students about to leave for college, shop girl Lilly is… well, not much really; dumpy Sheriff Avery is keeping law, and the usual gaggle of over-aged actors pretend to be the local teen contingent.

Coach Neil takes a shine to Lilly and asks her on a date, much to the chagrin of some random girl (I called her Headband Girl), who jealously covers his car in shaving foam and then wanders away from the crowds, only to be shot in the back with an arrow. She flees, seemingly running away from the carnival, to a disused carousel. Now, I know the first thing I’d do if wounded in such a way would be to seek out the nearest merry-go-round, so she’s clearly a smart girl. Or not, as once in the ‘safety’ of the carousel, it starts turning and someone is able to asphyxiate her with a plastic bag. She dies in about three seconds. See this former Ridiculous Scene O’ the Month here.

For what seems like weeks, we watch the over-aged teens on rides, on the bouncy castle, ferris wheel, in the funhouse… Eventually they decide tonight is right for an end-of-summer party near the lake. Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s slow son Casey flits about, adhering to Robert Downey Jr’s speech about ‘going full retard’ in Tropic Thunder. Naturally, he is a major suspect. Lilly is cajoled into attending the camp-out, hoping that Neil will also go. What kind of pot-smokin’, pre-marital-sex-having teens invite their teacher?

A touch of equal opportunity objectification: House of Death has it all!

After an hour, one of the group goes skinny dipping and the bodies of the two pre-credits victims (seen throughout the film floating downstream) collide with her, the killing can finally begin. The others, thinking she’s just left, go to the cemetery to tell ghost stories but get rained out, seeking shelter in an abandoned house. THE house. The one from the title. It finally debuts 73 minutes into the 89 minute film.

There are 16 minutes remaining to kill eight characters, subdue the loon, and roll the credits. Get a move on.

Unlike, say, The Final Terror, the killer does at least shift his ass into gear and swiftly does away with most of them, but it becomes a meta slasher flick, what should’ve been spread over at least 45 minutes is crammed into 14: There’s a beheading, a throat slashing, and one guy dies from both hands being chopped off. Last to go is the town slut, Ramona, who falls through a rotten staircase: As the others try to heave her free, she’s cut in half at the waist.

But wait… Wasn’t the killer outside the front door, literally ten seconds earlier? Yes, but House of Death isn’t bothered about such liberties… Hell, the fucking house only just bothered to show up.

With the good kids and Lilly left, the killer bursts forth and we get maybe ten seconds to work out who it is and why they did it. Lots has been made of the bad edit in this scene, and one earlier, which had us believe said character was dead, but on this viewing, I just about heard the name called out before the guy is taken down with a cut throat, tumble through a second storey glass window, and then an exploded head, courtesy of the just-in-time sheriff.

What gives, House of Death? Don’t ask me, and don’t look for answers in either of the available UK DVD releases, both are cut, despite what the boxes say, and both have been placed on the DVD out of order: For instance, rather than the reels going 1, 2, 3, 4, it goes 1, 2, 4, 3. If you’re a smart cookie, you could re-author it on to a new disc, otherwie just buy American.

“…And nobody had a fucking clue what had just happened.”

So it’s under-lit, badly chopped, and the slasher part of it only lasts a few minutes, but House of Death is similar in tone to Final Exam or The Slumber Party Massacre: it’s just pure stalk n’ slash silliness. Had the mystery element been amped up and the editor been a little harsher in the early scenes, it could be a minor cult classic.

Regress

SPRING BREAK MASSACRE

1 Stars  2008/77m

“Party till you drop DEAD.”

Director: Rex Kramer [Michael A. Hoffman] / Writers: Meghan Jones & Michael A. Hoffman / Cast: Reggie Bannister, Sarah Minnich, Joh Shumski, Leanne Vanmaulle, Erin Meyers, Ally Hartman, Renee Darmiento, Toni Buena, Rick Federman, Jeff Pride, Jeff Hayden, Christian Anderson, Linnea Quigley, Bob Farster, Curtis Taylor.

Body Count: 16

Laughter Lines: “I’ve seen enough of these slumber party slasher flicks to know what’s going on.”


Three teens at the world’s most boring party decide to play with a Ouija board while they do shots. When the girl demands the two chaps leave, she gets her throat slashed and the murder is blamed on the pizza delivery guy who stumbles in and finds the body.

Ten years later (not nine, not eleven) the usual denomination of mid-western college kids throw a slumber party. Boyfriends attempt to crash. Tits. Girl-on-girl rubbish. Horny neighbour who keeps turning up at the door. Eventually, death for the majority of them. Who is it? Who cares? Certainly not the writers.

Pitched as an homage to the Slumber Party & Sorority House Massacre franchises, the DVD cover is about as close as it gets. The rest is a no-budget dullard of a product, with characters so stupid and vacuous there’s zero sympathy for their plight, something at least most of those older films could lay claim to.

Yeah OK, it was shot with one camera over about a week, but c’mon, it’s time that girls in slasher flicks were at least as capable as their real life counterparts. Has Scream been entirely forgotten? These ARE the stupid girls Sidney Prescott refers to in her anti-slasher film rant. Boys, of course, remain clothed where it counts and are afforded largely off-camera demises.

Bannister and Quigley muddle through largely unscathed and the final girl acts quite well, but everybody else blurs into a mass of amateur-night forgettableness. A kind-of sequel, Girls Gone Dead, followed in 2012. I won’t be bothering.

Blurbs-of-interest: Bannister was also in Bloody Bloody Bible Camp; low-end horror icon Linnea Quigley can be found in Graduation Day, Silent Night Deadly Night, Fatal GamesKolobos, and Jack-O.

Final Face-Off: Final Nightmare vs Final Friday

Happy Star Wars day! But let’s turn our attention to a couple of less boring franchises…

jayfred-2.0Before Freddy vs Jason, New Line had officially killed both of their bad guys off in a pair of, at best, divisive ‘final’ instalments…

Disappointing box office returns for both of the 1989 sequels (Jason Takes Manhattan and The Dream Child – $14 and $22million respectively) were the writing on the wall for cinemas biggest slasher names (Michael Myers was faring even less well at the time) and so New Line purchased the rights on Jason from Paramount and decided to lay both to rest over a couple of years.

Goodbye 80s, hello 90s: Nobody wanted a masked maniac or a quippy dream stalker on the screen anymore. Well, not for a few years anyway.

First on the chopping block was Freddy. It’s worth noting that the film was released in the UK in early 1992, a matter of weeks after Queen frontman Freddy Mercury died, so his passing was unfortunately paired with a string of TV commercials bellowing “Freddy’s dead!”

FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE

2.5 Stars 1991/18/85m

“They saved the best for last.”

A.k.a. A Nightmare on Elm Street 6

Director: Rachel Talalay / Writer: Michael De Luca / Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Zane, Lezlie Deane, Yaphet Kotto, Shon Greenblatt, Breckin Meyer, Ricky Dean Logan.

Body Count: 5


Ten years after the events of The Dream Child, Springwood is a childless burg after the relentless spate of weird deaths and ‘suicides’. Only one teenager remains, and he’s being tormented in his sleep by dreams of Freddy Krueger, who seems just a little reluctant to seal the deal and slay him.

Said teen wakes up beyond the city limits and is picked up by cops and dumped at a city juvie hall where in-house shrink-cum-social worker Maggie (Zane) works. New teen has amnesia, no I.D., and is sleep deprived. From the contents of his pockets, Maggie thinks it’s a good idea to drive him back to Springwood to jog the olde memory. It’s not a good idea at all, Maggie. It’s a bad idea.

With three juvie hall stowaways onboard, the group soon find out how weird Springwood is: Roseanne and Tom Arnold live there! Everyone else has gone loopy, there’s not a child or teenager in sight, and before long, the group are being stalked and done in by Freddy, who hitches a ride in Maggie’s subconscious (or some other unexplained shit) to escape the town where he can stalk and kill anew. ‘Inventive’ demises include a deaf kid’s head blown up when Freddy tinkers with his hearing aid and makes a lotta noise, and another is sucked into a Nintendo.

How does he do this? Well, Maggie is his daughter! Gasp! This alleged twist can be seen coming miles off, as John Doe soon suspects he is Krueger Jr., but no sooner than Maggie is introduced are her issues and ‘dreams’ are brought up. It’s pretty damn obvious it’s going to be her.

Anyway, with this knowledge, she is able to enter Freddy’s head – in 3D! –  pull him out like Nancy did all those years ago, and finish him off. Freddy is dead.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey…

*

JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY

3 Stars 1993/18/87m

“Evil has finally found a home.”

A.k.a. Friday the 13th Part IX

Director/Writer: Adam Marcus / Writers: Jay Hugeley & Dean Lorey / Cast: John D. LeMay, Kari Keegan, Steven Williams, Steven Culp, Erin Gray, Kane Hodder, Allison Smith, Billy Green Bush, Kipp Marcus, Rusty Schwimmer, Richard Gant, Leslie Jordan, Julie Michaels.

Body Count: approx 23

Laughter Lines:  “Looking to smoke some dope, have a little pre-marital sex and get slaughtered?”


A SWAT team take out Jason Voorhees, blowing him into numerous pieces. However, during the postmortem examination of his remains, his still-beating heart possesses the coroner, who takes a big bite out of it and becomes a vessel for Jason to use. Death for almost everyone else follows.

Meanwhile, Crystal Lake is celebrating the demise of their most notable resident, although news of the murders at the morgue and several others on a trail back to town worries local waitress Diana, who turns out to be Jason’s lil sister. Her daughter, Jessica, and infant granddaughter, are due to visit soon, but Diana fears the worst and contacts the baby’s oblivious father, Steven, to tell him all.

Sadly for Diana, “Jason” gets to her first, now bodyhopping at will. Steven is found with blood on his hands and arrested for the murder. In jail, he meets bounty hunter and Voorhees-expert Creighton Duke, who tells him that Jason can only be stopped by one of his bloodline and needs said family member to regain his usual form. Save Jessica and the baby, save the world. Well, Crystal Lake anyway.

Jason hops into the body of Jessica’s TV anchor boyfriend, killing half the cops in town, rampaging through a restaurant, before switching again for the big confrontation at the Voorhees house. Needless to say, Jessica is successful in killing her uncle and he is sucked into hell for good.

* * *

Both films are objectively bad, more so within their respective franchises. One the one hand, Freddy is presented in an even more watered down, high-comedy, low-scare way, with more jokes than kills, some cringey quips, and a whole lotta scattergun efforts to pad out his swan song.

Jason’s treatment is a severe retconning of what began as a B-movie about an axe murderer, now there’s not only the body-jumping mini-demon, but all manner of lore, magical daggers, and a sub-Evil Dead How to Kill Jason book in the mix. It’s barely a Friday the 13th film at all.

Next to one another – and I watched both over two days – Jason’s adventure is that tiny bit more enjoyable, BUT solely down to a couple of very good scenes, the rest is an undeniable suckfest. Freddy, on the other hand, has a good first ten or twenty minutes and some interesting origin tale stuff (undermined by the dismal 3D dream creature things), but it all seems so forced in. And at least The Final Friday doesn’t shy away from pushing it’s R-rating to the hilt, although some of it is too gooey.

Peter Jackson wrote one of the many scripts considered for The Final Nightmare, but the production team steered away from darker themes – possibly having been stung with their ill-conceived attempt to make The Dream Child a back-to-basics affair – and opt for a lighter route, which resulted in a very dry, low-body count film, where the chintzy 3D final ten minutes or so were pushed heavily in the TV spots, but ultimately are inconsequential and cheap looking. Freddy had ceased being scary after Dream Warriors, as his series outperformed the competition in bounds, but the bizarrely adopted concept of an undead child molester and killer had just become too big for its boots and no power in heaven or earth would ever make it scary again.

The film has a few cameos: Johnny Depp appears on TV frying an egg, and Alice Cooper is drafted in as Fred’s foster-dad. Breckin Meyer also marked his big screen debut here, and possibly regrets it. But if you’re going to end a film with a Greatest Hits compilation of highlights from the previous instalments, it’s going to make said movie look rubbish in comparison.

The Final Friday was shot in 1992 and shelved for almost a year, originally clocked in at two-and-a-half hours, and didn’t feature the best scene: This is, of course, the teen-campers aside. Test audiences complained there were no teenagers, so the genial little sidebar tale of two girls and a boy camping at Crystal Lake was added. All three are summarily slashed up (see this earlier Icky Way to Go), but it – as well as the opening seven or eight minutes – really recaptures the stalk n’ slash ambience of the 80s movies. After that, it’s downhill fast, although during this re-watch, I noticed the subtle (and not so) homoerotic nuances lurking beneath a few scenes; Adam Marcus allegedly ‘made up’ for the girls-only nudity rule of the previous eight movies with more naked guys and the very obscure shaving scene. Maybe Jason is gay?

jgth-1.2Of course, both characters were revived to duke it out ten years later in the phenomenally successful Freddy vs Jason, mercifully putting this pair of duds in the shadows, and both have since seen remakes that all but halted the franchises again.

I wouldn’t choose to watch either of these, and probably won’t for another decade or so, by which time I hope both will have seen at least one new film each.

Blurbs-of-interest: Beyond his Krueger role, Robert Englund was also in Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie VernonHatchetHeartstopperThe Phantom of the Opera, and Urban Legend; Breckin Meyer was in Stag Night; Kane Hodder played Jason in Parts VIIX and was also in Behind the MaskChildren of the Corn V, all three Hatchet movies, and Hack!; Leslie Jordan was in Madhouse; Adam Marcus later co-wrote Texas Chainsaw 3D.


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